By Sadie Lawrence
Where We Are From
By Sadie Lawrence
We are from the dirt
A small seed
That has grown
From the earth
To a magnificent, towering oak
We are from the ashes
A fiery phoenix
That has risen
From the remains
To emerge burning and powerful
We are from the clouds
A thundering storm
That has formed
From electrical charge
To rain down strength and beauty
We are from the ground
A pounding river
That has washed away doubts
From the bank of our past
To flow clean and clear on the path to the future
It is my belief that we are all made from the same stuff. We are formed from the stardust leftover from when the universe erupted into existence. And we are all humans. We all want the best for ourselves and our children, our future.
Since I joined KSEC last semester, I have felt increasingly empowered to make my small part of the universe heard. I organized an art gallery last semester revolving around the theme “Problems and Solutions in the Community.” I also helped plan a Determination Rally with the Young Earth Activists Club at my high school advocating against the pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. And now I am working with KSEC’s Political Working Group to plan the Rise Up Kentucky Rally on February 12th in Frankfort.
This rally is all about making youth’s voices heard. We may be from fewer years, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about the looming future. In fact, I’ve heard from many of my peers and from personal experience that the future gives many young people a lot of anxiety. We’re not sure what to do next. We ask which stepping stone will be the most stable and sturdy? What will happen if we choose the wrong one?
When I am unsure about the next step to take, it’s easy to shut down and try to take comfort in knowing someone else could always fill my place. There are always other people with more passion and more knowledge. “It won’t matter what I do anyway. I’m just one person in a world of 7 billion.”
But the thing is, every single person counts. Every single person’s stardust is needed to make up the universe. Without it, the world we live in would be very different. Right now, this generation and those to come are being threatened by a changing climate, air and water pollution, and an economy that extracts our wealth and our health.
For me, KSEC gave me a way to combat that anxiety and gave me actions I can take to address the problems at hand. I have ways to contribute and ways to show people that I am not apathetic about my future. This is one of the goals of the upcoming Rise Up Kentucky Rally: to learn new tactics to resist threats. We are showing that KSEC has enabled youth in the past. That we have empowered young people before, and we are continuing to now. That our fight for the future won’t stop. And that there are ways for our stardust to shine in a darkening world.
KSEC Political Working Group Building Momentum for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Frankfort
By Will Cripps, KSEC Political Working Group Organizer
I joined the political working group in the begining 2015. The legislative session was just starting and the working group was gearing up to go to the capitol with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to lobby against mountaintop removal as a part of I Love Mountains Day. I skipped the lobbying because I was nervous. I did however start joining in on the conference calls. Every week. At 9 at night. It was a dedicated crew.
Tyler Offerman was the organizer of the working group at the time and had been since 2014 when the PWG was founded. It was under his leadership that the working group launched its current campaign, the Power to the People campaign. The goal of the Power to the People campaign is to pass comprehensive renewable energy and energy efficiency legislation that creates a roadmap for just economic transition. A tall order for a bunch of college students who are still trying to pass their classes.
At first the Political Working Group was part of a larger coalition, the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA). KySEA was working on passing the Energy Opportunity Act which would increase the renewable energy infrastructure in Kentucky, and create 28,000 jobs. KySEA hadn’t seen much success with the bill and many of the coalition partners were disengaging.
The PWG still had high hopes for the bill and the opportunity it could provide for Kentucky, so even as less support came from the KySEA the working group doubled down on their efforts and in the summer of 2015, a year after they began supporting the Energy Opportunity Act and 5 years after the act had first been introduced, the PWG secured the first senate sponsor, Senator Reginald Thomas. Senator Thomas was excited about the bill and to help get him up to speed on the value that renewable energy could provide in Kentucky, the Political Working Group hosted a clean energy tour. The tour was so successful that Senator Thomas has asked that it become an annual event that legislators could attend to learn about clean energy.
Moving into the 2016 legislative session the PWG kept up the pressure in the Senate, the hope being that if the Energy Opportunity Act could be moved through both the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously it would be able to go immediately to the governor's desk, or if the bill did get held up in one branch, the PWG could still push for progress in the other. This strategy has already been effective: As Representative John Short has blocked the Bill in the House, the PWG has managed to gain more support in the Senate.
2016 has been a busy year for the Political Working Group. We held a protest on the capitol lawn, planting a windmill for every 10 of our supporters. We organized the second annual clean energy tour, where even we learned some new facts. Did you know the bluegrass hosts great wind potential?
The momentum is building, every year we get closer to our goal. Clean energy will come to Kentucky, but the sooner it gets here, the more our commonwealth will benefit. If you’re interested in securing Kentucky’s future, join the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition, and fight for an energy revolution.
By Grace Engelman, KSEC, Monterey, KY
Last Wednesday, the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition headed to Frankfort for the Clean Energy Lobby Day. The passion my peers have for our state and its environment blew me away. Growing up in a rural Kentucky county, I struggled to find young people with whom I could relate. KSEC has given me the opportunity to meet like-minded students who are prepared to take action on behalf of their fellow Kentuckians and our shared environment. It gives us a chance to make our voices heard. I think that this unique opportunity is where the appeal of KSEC lies for many of its members. Countless young people are afraid to speak out because they are worried that no one will hear their voice. KSEC gives us a platform on which to unite and make our message heard. We can create a powerful movement that can resonate with millions of Kentuckians. We can generate meaningful change. We can speak up on behalf of the environment without fear that our voices will be silenced or drowned out. While our lawmakers may not pay attention to a solitary voice, they cannot ignore hundreds.
My fellow KSEC members and I represent a statewide effort to give power to the people and forge the path to a bright future for our world. Our state, our country, and our planet depend on young people to put an end to climate change and encourage sustainability out of respect for our environment. Together, we can change Kentucky’s policies to promote the health of our ecosystems and our people.
In Frankfort, we discussed Senate Bill 190 and House Bill 339. This was my first experience with KSEC, and I absolutely loved it. As a high school sophomore, I was nervous to participate in an organization composed mostly of college students. However, as soon as I got the opportunity to speak with members, I felt welcomed and I was ready to fully immerse myself in this group.
After meeting my fellow KSEC members, we headed upstairs to speak with Senator Reggie Thomas, a sponsor of the bill. Afterwards, our groups split up to meet a number of other senators and representatives. My group met Representative Thomas McKee of Scott County. He showed interest in renewable energy and became engaged with our stories and the specifics of the bill. Once we finished our meeting with Representative McKee, KSEC members headed down to a hearing on a bill regarding coal miner safety, an important issue for many of our members. Later, we split up once more to distribute the outline of the bill.
We congregated for a debriefing to discuss the outcomes of our meetings. Then, we headed over to the Capitol Rotunda for a forum with our fellow members. Several students spoke about their own experiences with the group, and we participated in a powerful open discussion about youth participation, why we're involved with KSEC, and Kentucky’s energy future. I left Frankfort feeling hopeful for the state I call home and the future of my generation.
By Cara Cooper, KSEC Organizer
I can feel a change in the air when it comes to renewable energy in Kentucky, and it’s pretty damn exciting.
In the three years that I have been working with the KY Student Environmental Coalition we have seen more and more growing support from Kentuckians for renewable energy, green jobs and just transition. I have personally watched hundreds of young people go from feeling like there is nothing that we can do, to truly believing in collective power and our ability to make our futures better. In fact we’ve collected thousands of signature petitions from people, like you, who know that it is high time that our legislators hear our demands for the energy and industries of the future.
And our legislators are hearing us. Earlier this month we hosted a pinwheel planting event, where we planted over 200 pinwheels (each representing 10 petition signatures) out on the State Capitol lawn and then we went inside the capitol to a hearing on clean energy in the house economic development committee.
For the first time, we didn’t hear any push back from our elected officials about the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy, only questions about how it would work and how agriculture and farmers would be impacted. As the coal industry busts, for perhaps it’s last time, it is getting harder and harder to ignore the tens of thousands of jobs being created in nearby states, the ever growing energy bills from Kentuckians without access to energy efficiency, and the demand for new energy transition coming from their constituents.
That is why now is the time to put even more pressure on our elected officials to move us in the right direction and to build even more support for energy efficiency and renewable energy legislation.
We’ll be hitting the sidewalks (and libraries and cafeterias and classrooms) at five different campuses over the next five days collecting petition signatures so that when we head back to Frankfort on March 9th for our Clean Energy Lobby Day we can plant wayy more pinwheels and show the growing demand of young people. It is our future and we deserve a say in how it’s powered.
Join us at Transy, EKU, Morehead, Centre and UK this week to gather signatures and educate our peers AND THEN JOIN US IN FRANKFORT. Your voice is so important, and we can’t do it without you!
Stay tuned for more updates as the campus tour launches tonight and as we travel around the state in the next five days and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
By Kelsey Bolger, KSEC, Transylvania University
Today I had to choose between going to vote or $20 and to be honest, I hesitated.
Technically speaking my choice was actually between a mandatory event at my campus or going to vote, as both fall into my only 2 hour span of free time, but only one is going to charge me for lack of attendance.
I can practically feel your judgement leaking through the computer screen, so before you think too poorly of me rest assured that my desire for representation outweighed my desire for extra grocery money.
My point is, as a college student I have faced similar scheduling dilemmas every year it has been my privilege to vote, it seems between classes, extracurriculars, jobs, and other obligations I am having to make a choice between what to cut to even have the chance to rush back to my hometown and make it to the polls. At times I feels like the world doesn't even want me to vote.
And I wouldn't be wrong.
Myself- and most of you who are reading this- probably fall into the "millennial generation", also known as the "Me, Me, Me generation", the "selfie (or selfish) generation", the "ruiners of our country as we know it" etc. and the world hates us for it.
(^I think I drink just the right amount of wine, thank you very much.)
If you do a quick google search of "millennial" I'm going to let you know right now, the results aren't pretty. According to the majority of the population we are believed to be selfish, uninformed, apathetic- we are one of the most underlooked and underappreciated voting demographics out there.
Not only that, but our stats aren't looking so hot when it comes to the polls. According to projectvote.org 18-29 year olds make up 21% of the eligible voting population, but only aproximately half end up actually turning up to vote.
21 million citizens under 30 didn't show up to vote in 2008, and if you're a young person who doesn't attend college the chances of you voting are slim to none- yet when asked why they didn't vote hardly any reported apathy as their main concern. Many cited various reasons such as confusion or errors with figuring out where to vote as to why they hadn't in previous years. Yet we as young people can, and have, made a difference as a voting demographic. Analysis after the 2012 presidential election showed that youth voters made a decisive difference in 4 states- allowing Obama to successfully claim these states and snag the election.
We are looked down on for our apathy, yet evidence shows that our generation is one of the most politically aware of all time. Resources that weren't available to previous generations, such as online news and social media, allows us to quickly spread and share ideas and beliefs. We care, we try to stay informed, and we can organize political movements arguing for sweeping changes through a singular hashtag on twitter and have it catch fire across the world- and that scares people.
It can be easy to feel intimidated and unimportant when election season rolls around, especially when the overwhelming message from the media is that, as a young person, you do not matter- but the reality is we have, and can continue to, make a difference in our elections.
These upcoming elections represent an important chance for young people in Kentucky to have our voices heard. Currently our state offers very little opportunity for us to stay here after we graduate, the unemployment rate for young people in Kentucky is considerably higher than the national average- meaning that once we graduate we are effectively forced into leaving our home state in order to seek out better chances of employment.
Not only that, but our current representation does not adequately represent and endorse issues that Kentucky youths care about- such as addressing climate change, student loan policies, and the possibility of creating green jobs that would help us stay in-state. We can change all that, but only if we vote. Voting is the biggest step we can make towards achieving the changes we want for our country, our state, and our lives as citizens.
We know we care, we know we're informed, we know we can make a difference- and now it's time to show the world.
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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